Home Feature RECLAIM rising from the ashes: LGBT youth clinic provides holistic mental health

RECLAIM rising from the ashes: LGBT youth clinic provides holistic mental health


After the 2008 stock market crash, many non-profits died untimely deaths, including a few local LGBT social service organizations. Thanks to a big boost from its supporters, one organization has not only survived, but is starting to thrive, and is looking for volunteers to help it expand by offering an integrative medicine clinic offering services like acupuncture and massage to its current clients.

RECLAIM started out as a project of Face 2 Face, a St. Paul organization providing integrated mental health, medical, and case management services to homeless and underserved youth and families in the Twin Cities area. Psychologist Janet Bystrom ran a mental health practice and several support groups at Face 2 Face, including one for youth exploring their gender identities, that she was forced to close when Face 2 Face’s donations and grant funding took a severe hit in early 2009.

“Most places do not provide mental health services for queer youth,” Bystrom told TheColu.mn last year as she was resurrecting her former practice as an independent organization, called RECLAIM, calling ordinary youth mental health services insufficient, because LGBTQ youth frequently don’t see such places as friendly environments. “The only way you can get those kids to come is to do outreach and say ‘hey, you are welcome here.'”

At the time, Bystrom was working with $35,000 in monetary donations and $40,000 in in-kind donations such as computers like volunteer time spent doing clerical work to get RECLAIM going, a combination that’s continued to reap rewards for the organization by helping keep administrative costs under control.

Less than a year in, Bystrom and two masters-level interns are already swamped with providing mental health counseling to around 20 to 25 LGBTQ youth every week, around 60 percent of whom have no health insurance, and with running several support groups on a wide variety of topics including gender identity exploration – tremendous growth she attributes to the community. “I can’t really believe where we were a year ago; I can only take partial responsibility,” Bystrom told TheColumn. “It’s really a testament to the volunteer time people have committed and to the young people themselves” who’ve helped get the word out about RECLAIM’s rebirth.

“We’ve started having to turn away people because we’re so saturated here,” Bystrom said. “It’s really unfortunate.”

In the interim, Bystrom said, she and RECLAIM’s volunteers are exploring how to providing professional development opportunities to mental health professionals of color, and on building an integrative medicine clinic for RECLAIM’s current clients, funded by a $15,000 grant from the Rainbow Health Initiative funding office space and some materials.

Integrative medicine, said Dr. Timothy Culbert, head of the large Integrative Medicine Clinic at Minneapolis’ Childrens’ Hospital, is “a philosopy of care that takes the best of all available options…We customize treatments to each individual on the basis of their own needs and preferences.”

“We really want to work with the body and facilitate the body’s natural healing capacities,” Cuthbert told TheColu.mn in an interview. “We also want to work with kids to teach them holistic self-care techniques” that can work alongside traditional Western medication or psychotherapy.

According to Diane Long, a massage and healing touch therapist and the volunteer coordinator for RECLAIM’s integrative medicine clinic, told TheColu.mn that the clinic will be offering a wide range of care options designed to compliment and amplify the psychotherapy clients are currently receiving for a wide range of issues, including smoking cessation and healing the scars from violence and sexual abuse.

So far, Long said, clients’ responses to experimental “clinic evenings” at RECLAIM’s offices have been overwhelmingly positive, encouraging them to expand the program.

“The clinic is a way for youth to sample different modalities, and find out what works for them,” Long said, “It’s going to be very youth-directed,” in keeping with the spirit of integrative medicine.

To get involved with the clinic, Long said, integrative medicine practitioners should contact RECLAIM. If you want to help out, but don’t know the first thing about healing touch, chiropractic therapies, nutrition, physical therapy, or other types of care that fall under the integrative medicine umbrella, you can donate money or some of these items:

– Gift cards to The Wedge or other area co-op supermarkets provide healthy food for Clinic evenings
– Gift cards to Office Max to purchase items for display and filing
– Gift certificates for Massage Warehouse for supplies
– Portable massage table or massage chair
– Donations of goods or services for an on-line auction to be held at the end of July


Comments are closed.